The grass is not so green here

1st July 2005 at 01:00
I am writing in response to the article by Gordon Cairns concerning supply teachers (June 10). While I can appreciate that Mr Cairns may go into school and have every facility laid on for him, this is not the common experience of supply teachers.

Although some supply teachers are retired senior members of staff, and often return to their own old schools, many supply teachers are not so privileged. I am returning to education after a long illness: I need to earn a reasonable salary to feed my family.

While the school in which I work is as helpful as possible under the circumstances, it is unusual to walk into a room with materials prepared and a quiet and willing class, so that I can get on with marking and preparation for those classes in which I teach my subject. The school needs the supply teachers to be able to function, as the stress levels experienced by other staff lead to a high level of staff absence, possibly exacerbated by falling rolls, which means that little new blood comes in except via supply.

Since I am known to be a supply teacher, discipline is not as easy as for the more established members of staff, and other supply teachers working in the same school have experienced violent incidents both within the school and when leaving the building. The school concerned has many features in common with inner city schools throughout Scotland, and life is never easy for any of the teachers, let alone those providing supply.

I feel that Mr Cairns may have a grasp of life in the leafy suburbs, but he should walk a mile in someone else's shoes before he takes the bread out of the mouths of those who do an honest day's work, put up with much less than perfect working conditions and are vital to the running of many of the less attractive urban schools.

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